The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix may have delivered a smashing finish, but drivers are glad to be heading out of the country.
The Grand Prix was a controversial addition to be added into the calendar and many drivers have now expressed their relief over the fact that it’s over.
Verstappen had plenty to be happy about after pulling a sensational final lap overtake on Charles Leclerc to win the race. Meanwhile, Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz rounded off the podium.
There had been some doubt surrounding whether the race would even go through. It was only after an emergency meeting was held between F1 president Stefano Domenicali and the team bosses that the thumbs up was given to the race.
Drivers glad to be leaving
It was another frustrating event for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who suffered a number of problems throughout the weekend and only managed a P10 in the race.
Sharing his thoughts, he said, “I am so happy the weekend is done. I am so happy that everyone is safe, I am just looking forward to getting out. I just want to go home.”
Red Bull driver Verstappen seemed to be in agreement.
“We had a lot of guarantees that of course it would be safe but after this weekend all the drivers together, we will speak with F1 and the team bosses to see what is happening for the future,” he said.
F1 has recently signed a mammoth $900 million deal with the Saudi Arabian authorities which would see this destination stay for at least the next decade.
Sergio Perez, who finished the race in 4th position, was equally happy to be getting out of the country.
“I think there’s definitely some considerations that we will have to do as a group and see what’s best for the sport going forwards,” he said.
Meanwhile, runner-up Leclerc said, “I don’t want to go too much into details on this subject now, but it’s definitely a discussion that we should have after this race, once everything calms down and we’ll look back at it, and then we’ll see.”
McLaren driver Lando Norris spoke about his nerves ahead of the race.
“Of course, I am relieved (to have got through the weekend). It is a nervous place to be and you are going to have these nerves,” he said.
Do drivers lack freedom of expression?
Vettel had also spoken about how he wasn’t entirely at ease in the country.
He argued that drivers don’t have much of a say in such matters since they are on “payrolls”.
“How independent can you be when you are on the payroll?” Vettel had said.
“You could say boycott, don’t even go there.
“On the other hand, you can go there with the thought: we represent our Western values, show our freedom and stand up for it.
“The question is how brave you can be when you are a paid guest.
“It’s not like Formula 1 chooses that on the map. It’s more that countries are approaching Formula 1 and it’s part of the business model that venues are putting a lot of money into it.
“Do you dare to do something about it when you are there? On the other hand, there are certain values we must stand up for because they outweigh financial interests.”
Human rights became a central theme
Human rights also became a central theme at this Grand Prix, with drivers called to speak on it.
“It is obviously naturally a very, very complex situation,” seven-time world champion Hamilton said.
“But, I’m always open to having a discussion, to learning more, to try to understand why the things that are happening are happening. Because it’s 2022 and it’s easy to make changes. But I’m open to doing that.
“Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of those that are in power to really make the changes and we’re not really seeing enough. So we need to see more.”
Recently, an F1 marshal who was working at the Grand Prix, had written a social media post where he was ‘hoping’ to see Hamilton suffer a serious crash. He quit from his job hours before the final race.
Regarding Hamilton’s human rights comments, the marshal said that “Saudi authorities do not respond to dogs”.
Was the track too dangerous?
It wasn’t just matters off the track that was a cause for concern.
Even from a racing point of view, it was dangerous and certainly not to the liking of Leclerc and Sainz amongst others.
“I think it’s definitely the most dangerous place in the calendar, there’s no secret about it,” Perez said.
“It really demands a lot from the drivers, from the cars, from the teams. If you get it wrong, it can be a huge accident.
“I don’t know if there’s something we can do into Turn 22/23 because it’s a really high-speed section.
“It’s more (dangerous) in the race, but I think it’s the same, after qualifying the last thing I want to think about is the track.”
Sainz offered a solution on how it could be a safer race in the future.
“Here if you crash, it hurts a bit more than in other places in the calendar because the walls are closer and the speed is higher,” he said.
“As drivers, we’re very confident here, because we know the safety of the cockpit is very high and when you see incidents like Mick’s, gives us a bit of tranquillity that at those speeds the car is protected because the FIA has done a great job in giving us very safe cockpits.
“But at the same time, is it really worth it having that huge accident when you could maybe hopefully push the walls a bit further out and it would give us a bit more space to slow down the car if we lose it?
“It’s a discussion that we need to have because it’s probably a bit on the limit.”